In a quest to raise people’s awareness regarding Egypt’s natural heritage and specifically the Wadi Degla Protected Area, a group of citizens decided to use Virtual Reality to bring people closer to nature: when technology meets sustainable development!
As part of Nature Conservation Egypt’s environmental education program, Wadi Degla Virtual Museum is a pioneering educational experience that provides environmental, historical, and geological awareness about Cairo’s gateway to the Eastern desert in a mobile and dynamic way. This project uses Virtual Reality (VR) technology to bring the public closer to nature and educate them about one of Egypt’s fascinating protected areas in the form of three 360-degree videos that cover the following topics:
1. The Geological History of Wadi Degla
2. The Biodiversity and Ecosystems of Wadi Degla
3. The Nature-friendly activities in Wadi Degla
They offer three main educational experiences:
Experience 1: An intimate closed lecture with select participants (max.16)
What it looks like: It is a 2-hour lecture that incorporates VR videos for all participants. At the end, all participants get printed educational material.
Experience 2: An open lecture followed by a closed VR experience session
What it looks like: It starts with an hour educational lecture that is open to anyone interested in learning about the Wadi Degla protectorate. Upon entrance, every attendant gets a raffle ticket. At the end of the lecture, 16 raffle tickets are randomly selected. Those whose numbers are chosen get to experience the WDVM videos with the team. All participants get printed educational material.
Experience 3: A public booth
What it looks like: Anyone interested can experience the VR and get educational material about the protected area.
Experience 4: A customized educational experience based on your context and preference.
To ensure the sustainability of this project, they often charge for this service the institution and communities that do not suffer from poverty. Compensation is based on a sliding scale depending on the recipient’s ability to pay. A small percentage of the fees goes towards maintaining the project’s equipment while the majority goes towards sponsoring a free event at another institution that cannot pay.
In their quest to raise public awareness regarding Egypt’s natural heritage and specifically, Wadi Degla Protected Area, a site that is under threat from urbanization, they realized that the general public that engaged with their content came from a very particular socio-economic standing. Those that had cars and free time were the ones engaging. They wanted a wider audience and so they created a project that is able to travel and go to people where they are to include them in the conversation!
Everyone has the right to access information but most are systemically excluded.
This project is run by community volunteers who lead viewing sessions and communicate with the public. It is a community owned project that is sustained not by the leadership, but by those who have been through the experience and want to spread it further in their communities!
Here are some statistics they are proud of :
91% of viewers surveyed said they learned something new about Wadi Degla Protected Area
70% of viewers surveyed said they were encouraged to research more about the protected area and Egypt’s natural heritage
83% of viewers surveyed said they plan to go visit the PA
60% of viewers surveyed said they want to be part of the project and volunteers with them!
Numerous communities around Egypt such as neighborhoods in Giza, Cairo, Domietta, for example have been impacted by this project. The participants impacted by the project are adults or children, as the project targets people from all social standings and geographical locations.
As for Egypt, the whole country has been impacted as the Virtual Museum travels around the country to share knowledge and start conversations about Egypt’s natural heritage.
The biggest challenge is ensuring that their volunteer base is representative of the communities they hope to reach. It is not easy to encourage traditionally overlooked and marginalized members of their community to take a leadership role and be part of the project team but that is something they are constantly trying to do. They try to overcome this challenge by always encouraging and talking one-on-one with viewers about the opportunities to be involved with the project.
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